Serious Eats: Sweets
Who Makes the Best Vanilla Ice Cream?
"Is there such a thing as milk-flavored ice cream?"
With summer pie season around the corner, it's important to have the right vanilla ice cream for proper scoopage on top. We conducted a blind tasting with six readily available nationwide brands: Häagen-Dazs, Ben and Jerry's, Blue Bunny, Breyers, Horizon, and Edy's (aka Dreyer's in the western states). They were judged on a scale of 1 to 5, according to texture, flavor richness, and overall vanilla-ness. The results, in descending order:
This was a unanimous crowd favorite. It had all the trademarks of a good vanilla ice cream: nice silky mouthfeel, major potential as an apple-pie buddy, and, hey, it actually tasted like vanilla. Keep up the good work, Mr. Dazs.
Ben & Jerry's
Though we're used to the more psychedelic flavors from the tie-dyed Vermont ice creamerie, this one wasn't named after a public personality nor does it involve cookie dough (sorry, little dough balls). Turns out they can pull off the simple, too, probably because at the core of all Ben & Jerry's is really good ice cream. Purists will approve.
This one tasted like someone killed a bunch of vanilla wafers for the flavor—no actual cookie hunks or anything, just that boxed cookie vanilla flavor. It was more reminiscent of "vanilla" than vanilla. That alcohol aftertaste is a little disconcerting, but then again, there's something kind of pleasing about it.
Visible vanilla bean specks gives this one "the look," but once you get past that ice cream superficiality, it's just an airy white mountain lacking any butterfatty oomph. Apologies to all the adorable children who were in the Breyers commercials.
The organic milk company (with the happy cow flying over the earth logo) knows how to make milk, but maybe they should stick to liquids. Is there such a thing as milk-flavored ice cream? If not, we think we've found a good substitute. Very little vanilla flavor happening here. But at least you know your ice cream is pesticide-free! Or, wait a second. Is that what gives vanilla its flavor?
I think by ice cream Edy's means halfway defrosted Cool Whip. More air in there than a hot air balloon. While it earns points for vanilla specks, again, those black dots don't always translate into actual flavor. (Note: It's still edible, but we turned into ice cream snobs after all the competition.)